What pleasure there is in following Stephen Gould's short essays on Darwin, evolution, odd creatures great and small, foibles and fashions in science. These pieces, all culled from the Harvard paleontologist's monthly column in Natural History, make fine introductions to ongoing controversies in biology as well as proferring personal interpretations, science history, and the kind of fascinating minutiae that appeals to minds that like fascinating minutiae. (Why did the Irish elk--neither Irish nor elk--develop twelve-foot spreads of antlers? Why do certain gall midges devour their mothers from inside?) The common theme running through the essays concerns the origins of ail living things and centers on the many interpretations of earth history and evolution that persist today. Against the molecular evolutionists who argue for the random yet regular evolutionary change in genes and the contrary views of sociobiologists who see the firm hand of selection determining that all major patterns of behavior are adaptive, Gould takes a pluralistic stand, as Darwin himself did. ""Really big questions succumb to the richness of nature--change can be directed or aimless, gradual or cataclysmic, selective or neutral. I will rejoice in the multifariousness of nature and leave the chimera of certainty to politicians and preachers."" Readers will rejoice, too.